It’s “Best Of” Season in the Capital Region, when all of the traffic-conscious local bloggers hereabouts are falling all over themselves to provide you with links to the big local newspaper’s “Best Of” readers’ poll website, while demurely batting their eyes and saying, “Oh, I’m just showing you where it is as a public service, but of course, don’t vote for me, I’m not worthy, really, vote for somebody, anybody, but please not me . . . .”
Riiiiiiiiight . . . .
I’m not going to point you to such a site, but if you find it yourself and want to vote for Indie Albany or in one or more categories, well, hey, go right ahead and do so. I’d vote for us, too, if I were inclined to vote in such things.
But I’m not, as a general rule. Even though I’m an inveterate list maker, these sorts of open-ended readers’ poll surveys tend to leave me cold, as I think they are better indicators of “Most Popular” or “Most Active Ballot Stuffing Street Team” than they are arbiters of “Best Of ” anything. Once you factor in selection bias and statistical significance (or, more often, lack thereof), readers’ polls are actually among the most useless survey instruments possible when it comes to determining quality, especially when the readers are encouraged to vote in as many categories as they possibly can (whether they know anything about them or not) as part of a prize eligibility requirement.
I used to think more highly of critics’ polls than I did of readers’ polls when it came to music and film, until I actually became a paid music critic, and grew to realize how often we picked things that were obscure to the point of absurdity, especially when they were made by our friends. So now I look at such critics’ polls with a jaundiced and cynical eye, assuming that if I haven’t heard of someone or something that the critics have cited, then odds are it’s the art editor’s girlfriend’s band.
So what I really like these days, when it comes to learning about new things that I might like, is not reading aggregated readers’ poll results that are subject to ballot-stuffing, nor anonymous group pieces crafted by a cabal of nepotistic critics, but rather something that falls between those extremes of gang mentality and willful obscurantism.
Where do I get that sort of perspective? By reading blogs or print articles by people whose opinions I respect, who lay out their own personal favorites in categories that really matter to them, and in which they are knowledgeable. I consider these folks my trusted online advisers, and that has nothing to do with whether or not the local newspaper’s readers consider them vote-worthy or not.
I’d encourage you all to develop your own list of trusted sources, if you’ve never done so. You’ll certainly get more out of doing that than you will by engaging in sheep-like adoration of the things that get listed in a readers’ poll, largely because the people behind such things are trying really hard to appear there.
Here’s a closing note to those folks who are desperately spinning their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter follower lists, and e-mail rosters to whip up the votes for themselves. For the record, since I’ve been there, an appearance in a local newspaper’s “Best Of” readers’ poll plus a cup of coffee equals . . . a cup of coffee. So, please, stop embarrassing yourselves by groveling for something so meaningless in the big scheme of things. Dignity matters, you know?